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Intermec CS40 Mobile Computer

A really rugged smartphone/mobile computer that easily fits into existing enterprise systems
(by Conrad Blickenstorfer)

Note: On December 10, 2012, Intermec announced that it will be acquired by Honeywell. [See Intermec press release]

On September 20, 2010, Intermec announced the CS40. It's a new line for Intermec, and the company calls the device "the first rugged mobile computer with the size and styling of a smart phone." In essence, the CS40 was designed for mobile professionals who need high-performance barcode scanning as well as the ability to run mobile line-of-business apps. Most importantly, the CS40 can handle far more abuse and lasts far longer than any commercial smartphone.

So what exactly do you get with the CS40? That's not entirely clear. Even the header in Intermec's press release asked, "Smart phone or Rugged Mobile Computer?" Fact is, the CS40 is both—a rather competent phone and also a rather competent handheld computer. It can do that because it's based on Microsoft Windows Mobile, and Windows Mobile has had very good phone support for almost a decade. And also because it's made by Intermec, a company that's abundantly familiar with making rugged handheld devices.

Let's look at the specs. The CS40 is a small and handy device, measuring just 5.25 x 2.46 x 0.94 inches and weighing under seven ounces. That means it has a footprint that's hardly larger than consumer smartphones, but it's quite a bit thicker and heavier. Still, this is a device that easily slips into any pocket. The 2.8-inch "trans-reflective" touch display is a bit small and its 240 x 320 QVGA resolution pales compared to the ultra-high-res screens of the latest consumer phones (the iPhone 4 has 640 x 960 pixels), but by using the old QVGA format, Intermec guaranteed full compatibility with all those thousands of Windows Mobile business apps.

The CS40 is powered not by one of the ubiquitous Marvell PXA chips, but by an ARM11 processor that handles general system tasks and an ARM9 processor that handles radio. Both are running at 528MHz. There's 256MB of RAM, 512MB of ROM, and storage can be augmented via a microSD card slot supporting cards up to 32GB. Customers can order the CS40 with either a 44-key alphanumeric keypad for thumb-typing, or a phone-style 26-key keypad, both backlit.

For scanning, there's Intermec's EA11 2d imager (see product page) that can handle virtually all 1D and 2D barcodes and symbologies quickly and accurately with its laser-like aimer. There's also a 3.2-megapixel fixed-focus color camera with flash for documentation and an embedded accelerometer used for screen rotation, system suspend, or developers can use it to provide input to custom apps.

On the wireless side, the CS40 has integrated Class II Bluetooth Version 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), 802.11b/g (but not n) WiFi, and advanced 3.75G voice and data communications. There's also an integrated and network-independent 12-channel GPS.

Ruggedness is an integral part of the CS40's game. It can handle operating temperatures between 14 and 122 degrees, which means it can go, and work, virtually anywhere. It has IP54 sealing, where the "5" means it's pretty much dustproof, and the "4" means you can spray water on it from all directions. It can also handle 4-foot drops to concrete (per MIL-STD-810G testing specs), and Intermec performed tumble, electrostatic discharge and other ruggedness tests, though we haven't seen all the results yet.

The battery is a modest 3.7 Volt/1,430 mAH Li-Ion rechargeable that, per Intermec, nonetheless lasts through a full shift.

Overall, with the CS40, Intermec aims at customers who seek a small and really tough smartphone/scanner/mobile computer that easily fits into exiting corporate structures and systems. It has significantly better ruggedness specs than its likely arch rival—the recently introduced Motorola ES400— and it has a "real" scanner and a somewhat more advanced radio (albeit only with support for GSM technology and not CDMA), but it's also thicker and heavier and has a smaller screen with less resolution. The real question will be how traditional Windows Mobile handhelds, regardless how rugged and advanced, will be received in a world spoiled by the multi-touch functionality and effortless elegance and operation of iPhone and Android devices.

Below is an Intermec video that describes the new Intermec CS40:

Specifications Intermec CS40
Added/changed Added 09/2010
Form-factor "Enterprise communication handheld computer" (Rugged PDA)
CPU Speed Main processor: ARM11/528 MHz
Radio processor: ARM9/528MHz
OS Windows Mobile 6.5
RAM/ROM 256MB/512MB
Card slots 1 micro-SD (up to 32GB)
Display type Trans-reflective TFT with LED backlight
Display size/res 2.8"/240 x 320 pixel QVGA trans-reflective LCD
Digitizer/pens touch/1
Keyboard/keys 42-key alphanumeric or 26-key numeric backlit keypad
Navigation onscreen and directional control
Housing Unknown
Operating Temp 14 to 122F
Sealing IP54
Shock 26 4-foot drops per MIL- STD 810G
Size (WxHxD) 5.25 x 2.46 x 0.94 inches
Weight 6.9 ounces
Power 3.7V, 1,430 mAH Li-Ion
Interface USB 2.0, 1D/2D Area Imager, fixed focus 2.0mp camera with flash,
Wireless 802.11b/g WiFi, WWAN (3.75G UMTS/HSUPA, GSM/GPRS), 12-channel GPS
List price US$1,700 (estimated volume price through channel: under US$1,000)
Contact CS40 product page at Intermec
Windows CE/Windows Mobile Info
  • Windows Embedded Handheld
  • Windows Phone 7
  • Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R3
  • Windows Mobile 6.5
  • Windows Mobile 6
  • Windows CE 6.0
  • Windows Mobile 5
  • Windows CE 5.0
  • Windows Mobile Smartphone
  • Windows Mobile 2003
  • Windows CE .Net
  • Windows for Pocket PC 2002
  • Pocket PC intro 2000
  • Windows CE H/PC Pro 1998
  • Windows CE 2.0 1997